Enjoying the Bounty of Farmers’ Markets!

Day 71

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 73.  Perfect for camping

We shopped at the Glen Arbor Farmers’ Market.  Each week more and more fruit and veg are available.  Today we bought a baguette, lettuce, sugar snap peas, and smoked walnuts. 

This B&B sits outside the farmers’ market.  So quaint.  I bet it costs a lot to stay there!

There were a lot of flowers for sale. It looks like these locals bought some and will take them home on their bikes…

We are here for only 3 more days, and are working to check off a few remaining “to do” items.  Today it was to have lunch at Joe’s Friendly Tavern in Empire.  It really is friendly…an old guy welcomes you as you enter.  This place, dating back to 1946, is famous for its burgers, so we shared a blue cheese burger.  Indeed, it was award-winning.

We drove around Empire, and checked out the very popular beach there.

DINNER:  Time to use farmers’ markets items again.  First was an appetizer of a version of jalapeno poppers.  Not finding jalapenos here, we subsituted poblanos.  We stuffed them with seasoned cream cheese and wrapped them in bacon that we had  bought at a Harvest Host farm a few weeks ago. 

Next was a salad with the sugar snap peas and the lettuce we bought this morning.  Can’t get much fresher! 

The main course was paninis using slices from this morning’s farmers’ market baguette purchase.  I spread the slices with pesto from last week’s market, and laid on smoked pork loin slices from a local smokeshop and feta cheese.  Really yummy!  Sides were more of the Parmesan/lemon garlic scapes from the market.

Recuperation Day!

Day 70

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  Much cooler.  High 63

Tony and Jenny got an early start this morning, as they had a long drive to the Upper Peninsula today.  I bade them a fond farewell at the dump station.  The joys of camping!  We have REALLY enjoyed meeting up with them again.

After their departure, I took a solo “power walk” around the RV park.  Back to the RV, where I had to turn off the heater that George had turned on.  🙂

It was a quiet day, recuperating from our busy days with our friends last week.  We both read a lot.  George napped.

In the late afternoon, we returned to Iron Fish Distillery where we met friends that live in Retama Village in the winter and near here in the summer.  George had an “extra spicy” Bloody Mary and I had something called an Eplet that was tasty.  We had a nice conversation, sharing our summer’s experiences so far. 

DINNER:  This was a farmers’ market feast.  I  followed this recipe that I picked up at the market along with the garlic scapes:

Grilled Garlic Scapes with Lemon and Parmesan

2 # fresh garlic scapes
2 T olive oil
1 lemon, squeezed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Brush or toss the scapes in oil and then toss them on a hot grill.  Make sure that the grill is really hot to get grill marks on the scapes without turning them into mush.  Remove from the grill and put them back in the bowl with the oil.  Add everything else. 

Meanwhile, I cooked some fresh spinach fettuccini –  homemade from the farmers’ market.  To serve, I put the drained pasta in individual bowls,  added a big spoon of homemade pesto (also from the market), stirred it up, and topped with the scapes.  It really turned out nice.

Note to my vegan daughter – Almost vegan!  Could use Parmesan substitute. 

BOOK:  “The Venice Sketchbook” by Rhys Brown.  This book, historical fiction, is about a British woman trapped in Venice during WWII (involving art and a lover, of course) and a parallel story about her grand-niece who discovers the older lady’s secrets in 2001.  4 stars out of 5

Last day with our good friends Tony and Jenny

Day 69

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Not so hot.  High 74

I, the taskmaster, had a busy schedule for us again today.  Before our 8:00 AM power walk, at 7:30, Jenny and I loaded the RV park’s washing machines to do our laundry.  Good tactic, as the machines tend to fill up fast. While the clothes were washing, we did our half-hour walk, then moved the clothes to the dryer.  From there, we zipped  back to our campsite where George had breakfast going.  We enjoyed a twist on our Sunday morning ritual breakfast….  Tony contributed bacon (Canadian, of course) and George whipped up his yummy grits with scrambled eggs.  Great breakfast with friends!

Then, following the day’s itinerary as I had thoughtfully documented and shared, (haha!)  we had an hour of downtime before starting our busy afternoon. 

We drove 20 miles to Beulah, another cute town we like on the lake.  We were going to have lunch in a pub, but it was closed on Sundays!  So, we went to Five Shores Brewery for brewskis and pulled pork tacos.   Very good (beer and food)

Next stop was Iron Fish Distillery, a great little gem in the countryside outside of Beulah.  First we did a complimentary whiskey-tasting, then went to the bar to watch the mixologists make up fancy cocktails.  They really turn it into an art, chilling glassware, making their own syrups, garnishing with orange peel or herbs.  Tony had a work-of-art bloody Mary; Jenny had an old-fashioned with maple syrump;  and I had a Manhatten with amaro, a unique bitters like Campari. 

We took our drinks out to the patio to enjoy the live music.

What a fabulous afternoon! 

DINNER:  We bought wood-fired  pizzas at Iron Fish and brought them home for dinner.  One sausage and one spinach.  Yum Yum.  We sat outside and paired the pizza with my “world-famous” margaritas to celebrate our “Last Supper” together. 

Tony and Jenny are taking off tomorrow AM for the Upper Peninsula.  We had a great 6 days with them, and will miss them a lot.  We are already planning our next rendezvous. 

A very busy (and fun) schedule with our friends

Day 68

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  A bit on the hot side.  High 85

Another day with a busy schedule with friends Tony and Jenny.  After our 8:00 power walk, we drove into the town of Empire to buy a few things at the small farmers’ market.  I bought some lettuce, unusual mushrooms, and garlic scapes.  George and Tony are so much alike – they both chatted up the vendors. 

We dropped Tony off at the excellent, brand-new library in Empire, and the 3 of us went to do another hike in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.  This was a shorter – 1.5 mile – hike through the forest.  I forgot to apply bug lotion, and now have a lot of mosquito bites.  😦

After picking Tony up, we headed north on the famous M22 highway that goes around the perimeter of Leelanau Peninsula.  Our plan today was to visit several wineries on the peninsula.  But first, lunch.  Someone had recommended this restaurant, so we thought we would try it.  It is very retro.  It was a lumberman’s house originally.  It has old furniture in it, has lace curtains in the windows, and is a bit dark inside.  The staff were super friendly and indeed the food was good.  We had their special – walleye. 

Winery #1 was called Dune Bird.  It was quite new.  In the winery brochure, it describes the atmosphere as “hygge”.  I asked what that means, and learned it is a Danish word that means homey.  Indeed, the decor is definitely Scandinavian and warm-feeling.

Winery #2 was 45 Vineyards, so named as it sits on the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.  We sat outside, thankfully in the shade, and tasted a white wine. 

We headed toward winery #3, but all decided that we had had enough to drink, so we came on back.

DINNER:  We ordered from the food truck located here in the RV park.  George got a burger, and the rest of us ordered smoked (not fried) chicken wings. Sides were French fries and sweet potato fries.  I made a salad so we would have something a bit healthy!  I made this up, and think it turned out tasty….

Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas

1 can Trader Joe’s yummy spiced chickpeas. Do not drain
2 cups cooked quinoa.  I make mine in vegetable broth
1/4 cup diced raw red onion
1/4 cup diced radishes
2 T mixed nut pieces – optional, for crunch
Pepper.  (Taste for salt)

Mix all together.  This is vegan, but otherwise you can add feta.

BOOK:  “Peppermint Tea Chronicles” by Alexander McCall Smith.  This author writes delightful stories, some set in Africa and others in his new residence of Edinborough, Scotland.  This is one in a series about the goings-on in a neighborhood there.  Each chapter is an actual article in the local Edinborough newspaper.  The stories have been compiled into this book.  The characters become intertwined.  It is heart-warming.  I always feel like I expand my vocabulary after reading one of his books.  5 stars out of 5

Deconstructed hot dogs, and other fun!

Day 67

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  Warmer.  High 85

Up and out for my  8:00 AM “Power Walk” with Jenny.  Must adhere to the schedule!  🙂

After our power walk around the park, we prepared for the day and took off for a 10:00 hike at one of the trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.  It was a longer one today – 3.5 miles.  We are glad that we finished by noon, as it was heating up.

It was the Kettles Trail which has several sinkholes and bogs in the forest.  Really pretty and green…

We came back to the RV park to have quiet lunches on our own and to catch up with some computer work.  This park’s wifi has been reallly disappointing. 

Then, on to a smokeshop to buy brats, sausages,  and smoked whitefish.  It smells divine inside! 

Next up was a visit to Lake Ann Brewery where a musician was playing in their courtyard.

The ice cream store in the little town was doing a land-office business, and Tony just “had” to buy the “senior” cone just to try it

Back at the RV park, there was no downtime…..It was happy hour time.  Tonight is Tony’s turn for cooking and serving.   He made a charcutterie plate with some smoked pork chop he picked up this afternoon and some aged cheddar cheese.

DINNER:  Chili cheese dogs.  He warmed up the chili from the other night on his Coleman stove.

Meanwhile, George made a fire in the firepit and Jenny roasted the weiners.  Tony made a special “deconstructed hot dog” for me, with more chili and less bread (watching those carbs).  A beautiful presentation! 

The others had traditional cheesy chili hot dogs with buns with onion garnish.    All very tasty

Exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes with friends

Day 66

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV Park
WEATHER:  Beautiful once again.  Cool in the AM.  High 77

It was a little cool this morning.  George turned on the heat pump, but I promptly turned it off.  It is the end of June, buddy!

I write up a daily agenda for us.  I know, I know….too much micro-managing!  🙂 

Today started with a “power walk” around the RV park.  Then we were off for the day.  We hiked one of the trails in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.  It was 2.5 miles, through a lovely dense forest with mostly pine and beech trees.  Every time we take a hike, we see something unusual.  Today it was a mother woodpecker feeding her baby chicks way high in a tree full of woodpecker holes.  They were chirping away, begging for more food.  She flew off to get some more.  Really nice!

Then, a drive on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  It takes you through the forest, and then winds around so you have views of Glen Lake, followed by Lake Michigan.  This is at one of the pull-outs…

We enjoyed a picnic lunch along the way, then stopped for a hike on the dunes.  We watched as 2 people  were valiantly trying to hike back up the extremely steep 500-foot dune.  It takes people several hours to climb back up.  This sign doesn’t seem to deter people….

We visited the ghost town of Glen Haven and checked out the life-saving boat museum.  Our last stop of the day was to show Tony and Jenny the cute town of Glen Arbor with its art galleries, many restaurants, and high-end shops.  We checked out the Cherry Republic store with all things cherry.  I bought some jam and salsa for gifts.  Then, we had some drinks on their patio, including one beer with a slight cherry flavor. 

Back at the RV park,  we prepared for tonight’s dinner.  Tonight is my night to cook. 

We started with some interesting gin that Tony and Jenny found in Montreal.  It is blue.  When you add tonic, it turns to a light fuscia color…..

Then, we sipped on some bubbly from a winery near here.  We couldn’t resist buying a bottle — with a name like Joy!!!

Along with the bubbly, we nibbled on steamed, cooled asparagus spears with a mayonnaise/lime juice dip.

DINNER:  George grilled some very thick pork chops that we had bought at the Harvest Host farm a few weeks ago.  He put the thicker pieces of the asparagus on skewers and  lightly grilled them, too.  Sides were an interesting salad (recipe below) and mashed potatoes. 

Mushroom and Walnut Salad with sour cream dressing

4 cups sliced white button mushrooms
1/2 cup walnuts (whole or half)
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup minced scallions
2 T lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
8-12 Boston lettuce leaves (I substituted some delicate Bibb lettuce I found at the farmers’ market)

Mix all.  To serve, spoon  into lettuce nests

Sharing Empire region with friends

Day 65

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 74

Our visiting friends Tony and Jenny like to keep fit by walking, so we took a 2.5 mile brisk walk around the RV park this morning.   It felt good.

I had planned a full agenda for today.  We enjoy showing other people around.

Here we are, getting ready for the day.  We have matching t-shirts that we “earned” last year by visiting 25 breweries and wineries on the Nova Scotia Good Cheer Beer & Wine Trail.  Hard work!     🙂 

First up was a hike on Empire Bluffs Trail.  It is a 1.5 mile round-trip hike up, up, and up to the top of the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan.  It is a beautiful view on top….

Then a 30-minute drive to one of our favorite towns around here, Frankfort.  We ate lunch at Stormcloud Brewery.  George and I shared an “okey-dokey artichokey” naan that was tasty. 

After lunch, we strolled around the lake front out to the lighthouse.  Every year, thousands (millions?) of alewives (a small fish that looks like smelt or a large minnow) die and float around the shoreline.  I think it has something to do with temperature changes.  Here are some of them that were becoming a bit odiforous….

Before leaving Frankfort, we stopped at their great fish smoke house and bought some whitefish pate’.  It is so good.  George bought a smoked chub, just to see what it was like. 

We stopped at a farm stand on our way back home.  The century farm owners’ little granddaughters were working the stand, selling strawberries, beef, and honey.  So cute!

When we are together with Tony and Jenny, we take turns with dinner duties.  Tonight was Tony’s turn.  We started with Bloody Maria’s and the whitefish pate’.  I toasted some slices of baguette that I had bought at the farmers’ market for the pate.  Nice.

DINNER:  Tony made some really good, hearty chili, using stew meat as well as hamburger.  Just the right amount of spice.  He is a good cook.  Jenny made some buttermilk biscuits with parmesan to go with the chili.  The weather is perfect for dining outside. 

Yay! Meeting up with friends

Day 64

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV
WEATHER:  Very nice.  High 82

This morning’s fun was a visit to the Glen Arbor Farmers’ Market.  It is bigger than the one in Empire, and has more vendors this week than last week.  More vegetables have come up!  Business was brisk.  We bought croissants and a baguette at the very popular bread vendor, after waiting in line for a bit.  A special treat was lions’ mane mushrooms.  We also bought asparagus, green onions, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, and pesto. 

We stopped at the town hall for public wifi, then did some shopping in the grocery store.  The store stocks a lot of gourmet foods, for the summer tourists.

Back to the campground for a load of laundry.  What fun!

Our good friends Tony and Jenny from Nova Scotia arrived in the afternoon.  They will spend 6 nights here with us.  I have a detailed schedule for their visit.   Who says I micro-manage?! !!

They joined us for my “world-famous” margaritas, guacamole, and chips while we caught up with each other’s travels.  They are traveling across Canada, and just dipped down to Michigan for a few days.  We first met them when we were camping in Newfoundland – at two different campgrounds.  Since then, we have reunited in southern British Columbia, Haida Guai, Badlands National Park, California, central Canada, Texas, and here before in Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Last fall, we spent a glorious 6 weeks in Nova Scotia.  We even met once (not camping) in Belgium!  They are a delightful couple. 

DINNER:  Keeping with the Mexican theme, I made beef fajitas.  Along with the steak, I sauteed bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms with salsa and Mexican herbs.  All muy bueno.

To South Manitou Island

Day 63

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
WEATHER:  Cool on the island (64); warm on mainland (78)

The naming of Sleeping Bear Dunes comes from a Native American tale about a mother bear and her two cubs swimming across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin to Michigan to find food.  As they neared the shore near Empire, the babies drowned from exhaustion.  They  came back to life in the form of two islands – South Manitou and North Manitou.  Today we took a ferry to spend the day on South Manitou Island. 

We picked up the ferry in Leland, about 30 minutes north of here..  There are no amenities on the island.  It is popular among campers who like to camp in back country.  The passengers were a combination of those campers with their huge backpacks and a few of us day-trippers.  The islands are now part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.

We left at 10:00 and the 1.5 hour ride was pretty choppy.  There was a group of young boys standing on the bow, screaming with laughter as they got soaked by the frigid waves splashing across.

When we arrived, we had our picnic lunch sandwich and then joined a little tour.  There is just one gravel/dirt road that goes on part of the island.  We climbed aboard a little trailer and were pulled by a tractor. 

Our tour guide did a lot of double-duty, helping with mooring/untying the boat, selling snacks and drinks during the ferry ride, and then narrating this tour. 

The three-hour tour was very interesting.  European settlers arrived here in the 1800s with almost no supplies.  Their first industry was forestry.  Wood-fired ships traveling on the lake would stop here for supplies.  It was a thriving island.  At its peak, there were about 98 residents. 

We first visited the one-room school house, serving about 30 children from kindergarten through 8th grade. 

Then, we stopped at the remains of several old farms.  After the lumber business ended (after they had chopped down most of the trees and the ships converted to coal-burning), they turned to farming. 

Cut off from most of the world, they were quite ingenious to survive.   This is their granary and icehouse

The last residents left the island around 1920.

A highlight of the tour was unexpected……As the tractor slowly drove down the dirt lane, we saw something in the middlle of the road…..a mother snapping turtle digging a hole to lay her eggs!  She was not happy to see us, and stared at us with beady eyes. 

We rigged up a stick with a cloth as a marker so that other tractors in the next few days won’t run over her eggs. 

After the tractor tour, we visited the Visitors’ Center, a former home/store/post office, and the lighthouse. 

We climbed the 107 steps to the top and were rewarded by beautiful views.

The boat left South Manitou Island at 4:00, and we arrived back in Leland at 5:30.  The ride was choppy at first, but got smoother. 

DINNER:  Chili over a baked potato.  Side was a lettuce & tomato salad. 

So many wineries….so little time!

Day 62

LOCATION:  Empire, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Indigo Bluffs RV
WEATHER:  Cool, but very nice.  High 68

After our Sunday morning ritual of George’s eggs, grits, and bacon, we headed out to the Leelanau Peninsula for an afternoon of wine tasting.

Our first stop was Good Harbor Vineyards which has a beautiful patio area. 

We had forgotten that today is Father’s Day.  The wine pourer said that yesterday (Saturday) was jammed, but since it is Father’s Day today, it would be very quiet. And she was right.  We had almost every winery to ourselves.

Number two was Laurentide Winery, on a hill overlooking vineyards.  We shared a cheese and cracker tray with our wine here, and called that lunch.  

There are about 25 wineries all within about 20 miles of each other on the peninsula.  Apparently the winds from Lake Michigan make for happy grapes, and tasty wines. 

Boathouse Vineyards was number 3 on today’s trip.  It is located on Lake Leelanau, and boaters can tie up here and have some wine.  We enjoyed sitting near the water watching boats go by.

Some swans came by and hissed at the boats.

We were planning to call it a day, but decided on one more….Bel Lago Vineyards, Wine, and Cider Bar.  A beautiful outdoor setting with a very good band playing outside.

When our friends arrive later this week, we will return one afternoon to do this again, perhaps at Bel Lago for pizza and music night, and then to explore others. 

DINNER:  Leftover pasta with a thick pasta sauce made from the Harvest Host farm’s homemade sausage.  Side was a lettuce (from the farmers’ market) and tomato salad.